18 June 2008

Increase the Size of Congress


Should we increase the size of Congress? Your first reaction is probably the same as mine was -- who needs more politicians? But we could use more representation.

An increase in the size of the House of Representatives could open up the institution, could make it more responsive, and could make more districts competitive. There is no reason for 435 members except inertia. A simple change in federal law would provide for the increase. Congress was intended to grow with the nation, and the failure to increase its size has made House districts very large. With a current population of over 300 million, the current size of the House of Representatives is too small.
As the U.S. population grew, so too did the supply of representation. By 1911, the year the House increased its membership to the current level, 92 million Americans enjoyed a per capita representation — the total population divided by the number of House members in any given year — of roughly 210,000.
After the 2000 census, each member of the House will have to represent an average of 650,000 people. Consider that the next time you try to set up an appointment with your “representative.”
An added benefit would be to correct the imbalances in the electoral college, helping to prevent the situation in 2000, when Gore won the popular vote but lost in the electoral vote.

A proposal called the "Wyoming Rule" would provide for the state with the smallest population to get one House seat, and that state's population would serve as the population basis for House districts. Using the "Wyoming Rule" would provide for a current House of 568 representatives. The "Wyoming Rule" would also provide automatically for future population growth.

Many countries have lower chambers larger than our House. The US House is one the smallest in the world among established democracies with over around 60 million residents. Britain has 646, France has 577, Germany has 613, Japan has 480, all with smaller populations, and also demonstrating that assemblies can function with more than 435 members.

More here, advocating a House of 650 representatives. Advocating for an even larger House here. I think that this proposal goes a bit too far.

How House seats are currently determined for each state here.

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